THE WALLS Bakery has been taken over by an American entrepreneur who is looking to expand the company into new markets with an emphasis on high quality products.
Bruce Gilardi, who has family roots in Shetland that date back to the 1700s, took over the established business on Thursday.
Among his initial plans is to slowly introduce “fresher, higher quality” ingredients and head further down the artisanal route.
The bakery has been run by Charlie Hodge since 1987 and currently has ten members of staff.
Gilardi, whose previous ventures include raising funding for a luxury chocolate company in New York and a design firm in Sarajevo, has already changed the name of the business to Waas Bakery to reflect the local pronunciation of the village’s name.
He first learned of the opportunity last summer when visiting his aunt in Walls before working a stint in the bakery to learn more about its operation.
The bakery, which was founded by John Boland in 1983, sells popular products like white softies and other rolls, oatcakes and water biscuits, but Gilardi is looking to add new, more artisan items into the range over time.
Currently exporting oatcakes to Scotland, the new owner is looking to widen the company’s markets to include the UK and beyond, with a stronger Shetland identity and branding.
“I really want to aim for quality and authenticity, so I hope to use quality local products, even such as lard from Hillswick instead of shortening, and moving towards fresher, higher quality ingredients,” he said.
“It’s a matter of taking over a profitable business and keeping it profitable, maintaining the staff and figuring out how to improve quality and profitability by creating a meaningful Shetland brand.
“I think Shetlanders are all very proud what Shetland stands for, and it’s kind of a shame that not many people are exploiting it except for people outside of Shetland. It will be good that people from the isles are benefiting from the Shetland brand.”
Previous owner Charlie Hodge said it was the right time to pass the bakery onto new leadership.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved, especially of my talented and dedicated team,” he said.
“Now is the right time to hang up my apron and hand the business over to someone who can build on our success.”
Last month meanwhile it was revealed that Westside artisan bakery The Quernstone is due to expand into new premises above the Aith Shop as a result of growing demand.
The company is solely led by Robert Tonkinson, who in fact was an apprentice of previous Walls owner Hodge.